ANAHEIM – Ducks and Kings fans waited more than 20 years for their hate-fueled rivalry to extend into the playoffs, and tonight’s second round Game 1 at Honda Center did not disappoint.
In a tight, heavy-hitting game that almost predictably needed more than 60 minutes to decide a victor, LA’s Marian Gaborik broke the Ducks’ hearts late in regulation, then did it again 12:07 into OT for a stunning 3-2 Kings victory.
"When you get scored on with seven seconds to go, it’s a tough pill to swallow," said Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau. "This is what all the games are going to be like. We had opportunities to win the game. We didn’t convert, and they converted when they had to."
In an overtime in which the Ducks just missed several chances to put the game away, Gaborik redirected an Anze Kopitar feed, the puck deflecting off the shoulder of Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller and fluttering over the stripe.
"They suddenly had a 2-on-1 out of nowhere," Hiller said. "It was a shot-pass that went off the post and off my back and in. It’s too bad."
Anaheim looked poised to pull off the victory while clinging to a one-goal lead in regulation, but Gaborik shocked the home crowd with just 7.0 seconds left on the clock. With the LA net empty and the Kings skating with an extra man, Mike Richards somehow snuck a pass from the left wing across the crease in front of Hiller, and Gaborik punched it in. Gaborik’s teammates piled on him as the Ducks and their fans looked on in stunned silence.
"They just threw it at the net," Hiller said. "I thought I got a piece of it, but it got up in the air and he batted it out of the air back door. We weren’t strong enough. We were too passive there."
Anaheim had taken the lead in the third on a Teemu Selanne goal that came (fittingly) 8:08 into the period for the guy who wears number 8. On the rush, Patrick Maroon laid the puck off to Selanne, who managed to backhand it between the pads of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
The Ducks appeared to outplay the Kings for most of that period, and for the majority of the game, outhitting their rivals 54-41 and blocking 29 shots. But Jonathan Quick was once again outstanding with 33 saves on 35 Anaheim shots. Hiller, making his first start in nearly a month, was sharp for most of the night with 33 stops.
"If you don’t play the type of style we played tonight, you just won’t beat them," said Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano. "Quick is too good, and they don’t give too much up. We could’ve got more than two goals. We had a number of chances that could’ve gone in."
The Kings scored the first goal of the series 9:04 into the first period on the power play coming from a Nick Bonino hooking penalty. The Kings cashed in when Gaborik tried to jam in the puck and it kicked off Jonas Hiller’s pad to Alec Martinez, who punched in the rebound.
Anaheim drew even a couple minutes later when Ryan Getzlaf swung behind the net and caught Quick out of position before feeding linemate Matt Beleskey for the one-timer.
Meanwhile, after the Martinez goal, the Kings went 17 minutes and 31 seconds without a single shot, finally getting one 6 1/2 minutes into the second. And while the Ducks dominated that period, they couldn’t find the net despite a number of chances.
The same could be said of overtime, as Selanne, Corey Perry and Devante Smith-Pelly were each denied by Quick on prime scoring chances with the game on the line. "We had a couple chances in OT to finish it, but at the end it’s still a 1-0 series," Hiller said. "We need to focus on the next game and learn from this. We have room for improvement."
A highly anticipated Game 2 is Monday at Honda Center.
"We have a quick turnaround," Beleskey said, "and we'll be ready for Game 2."